The Dao of the Tea House

The Dao of the Tea House

Tianzhushan Tea House

Archiplein pursue the ideal of ancient Chinese philosophy with their Tianzhushan Tea House.

Harmony and a life in harmony with nature are central themes in Daoism. Daoism, however, had a great impact on the entire traditional Chinese culture. This, of course, also includes art and, thus, painting. In traditional Chinese paintings, harmony with nature is depicted, for example, by architecture that merges with nature. This, however, was exactly Archiplein’s goal when they designed their Tianzhushan Tea House based on the role model of traditional Chinese paintings.

In traditional Chinese paintings, architecture and nature do not appear as separate things but as a whole. Instead of being the main focus of a picture, architecture rather reproduces the form of nature and adapts to the motions of the landscape. Therefore, Archiplein developed a “philosophy of vanishing”. According to this philosophy, the tea house was supposed to become an extension of the existing topography.

Bended Concrete, full of Windows

In the case of the Tianzhushan Tea House, this meant an integration into Mount Tianzhu. The result appears by all means pretty rocky, although it is actually made of concrete. The latter is outwardly left board-marked which gives it a brick-like appearance. To follow the motion of the mountain, the one-storied building shows a terraced form with manifold bends. The rock that served as a role model for the building must have been pretty holey, for windows are scattered all over the tea house.

View and Light

The concrete building is situated in a crater-like recess of the mountain, right on the shore of a lake. With its back to a slope, the largest part of the building faces both the lake and the peak of Mount Tianzhu. But since this main orientation is also towards the North, the countless windows come in handy not only for the view but also for natural lighting.

Cave House

If a building is a rock, isn’t then the interior of this building also a cave? Sounds logical, and the Tianzhushan Tea House is consequentially at least as minimalist as a cave. Well, almost, because there are still some simple wooden tables and chairs after all. But apart from that, I might as well stick to the cavernous impression, since, besides the spartanly furniture, there is nothing but naked exposed concrete as flooring, walls and ceiling.


If mountaineers will climb the tea house, confusing it with an actual part of the mountain, is questionable, but the building nevertheless fits smoothly into the mountain landscape, despite its not insignificant size. The interior is probably rather something for minimalism enthusiasts, exposed concrete fans or maybe speleologists. But even if it is not fit for pleasing everyone, it is surely still worth the architectural experience and, if need be, there is still a gigantic terrace with wooden planks flooring (for a change) on the upper floor.

Project details




Completion: 2011


Size: 1.000 m²